San Diego State: Beyond the Box Score Offensive Preview

Confused?  Catch up with the BTBS Primer.

Thanks to MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA™, we are a week behind on our opponent previews, so while I know it will break some people's hearts, we are somewhat merging San Diego State Week with Miami-OH Week.  If you want to cancel Rock M subscription because of this outrage, I understand.  You will receive a full refund of your $0.  That said, let's move forward with some big-time Aztec previewing...

2009

Record: 4-8 (2-6)
F/+: 103rd
S&P+: 97th
Scoring Margin: -7.2 per game
Conference Scoring Margin: -10.8 per game
Wins (F/+ Ranking in parentheses): #87 Colorado State, #108 New Mexico, #119 New Mexico State, Southern Utah (N/A)
Losses: #3 TCU, #21 BYU, #33 Utah, #35 Air Force, #57 UCLA, #94 Idaho, #95 UNLV, #96 Wyoming

While SDSU certainly improved in 2009 -- their scoring margin went from -215 in 2008 to -86 last season -- they still have a long way to go.  They went 3-3 against teams ranked 87th or worse last year, 0-5 against teams ranked higher than that (average score: 38-15).  Brady Hoke is a good coach, and they will likely continue to improve, but  you have to figure the Aztecs are still a year or two away from bowl contention. 

Coaching

Mmm ... Sonic ...

Head Coach: Brady Hoke
Record at SDSU: 4-8
Career Record: 38-46

After the failed Chuck Long Experiment, Brady Hoke took over the reins as SDSU head coach last season, and the Aztecs showed demonstrable improvement in his first season.  Hoke, you'll recall, was at the helm at Ball State when the Cardinals went 12-1 in 2008.  He left for his sunny alma mater and set about improving what seems like it could be at least a mid-sized sleeping giant.  A sleeping mama bear, at the very least.

When Ball State took off, it was sudden -- the Cardinals won just 15 games in Hoke's first four years, then improved to 7-6 in 2007 and 12-1 in 2008.  He apparently needs to get his own recruits into the system before thriving, and SDSU is still in transition in this regard.

Offense

Overall Ranks

F/+: 93rd

S&P+: 90th
Success Rate+: 106th
PPP+: 82nd

Standard Downs S&P+: 107th
Passing Downs S&P+: 54th

Redzone S&P+: 67th

Q1 S&P+: 105th
Q2 S&P+: 84th
Q3 S&P+: 94th
Q4 S&P+: 68th

1st Down S&P+: 116th
2nd Down S&P+: 81st
3rd Down S&P+: 47th

Rushing Ranks

Rushing S&P+: 118th
Rushing SR+: 119th
Rushing PPP+: 117th

Standard Downs: 119th
Passing Downs: 116th

Redzone: 116th

Adj. Line Yards: 115th

Passing Ranks

Passing S&P+: 56th
Passing SR+: 66th
Passing PPP+: 45th

Standard Downs: 64th
Passing Downs: 48th

Redzone: 18th

Adj. Sack Rate: 25th
SD Sack Rate: 20th
PD Sack Rate: 21st


The Aztecs weren't good at much in 2009.  They continuously put themselves in 2nd-and-long situations with one of the worst first down / standard downs offenses in the country.  Some solid play-making from quarterback Ryan Lindley allowed them to keep some drives going -- they ranked much higher on passing downs than standard downs -- but still ... a long way to go here.  If there is something to build on here, it's that Lindley returns, as do four starters from a line that protected Lindley quite well.  Now if they can just open some running lanes ...

Rankings History

Category 2005
Rk
2006
Rk
2007
Rk
2008
Rk
2009
Rk
F/+ N/A* 110 63 101 93
S&P+ 75 109 56 94 90
Success Rate+ 64 107 75 104 106
PPP+ 85 111 42 94 82
Rushing S&P+ 86 96 64 88 118
Passing S&P+ 66 106 44 97 56
Standard Downs S&P+ 78 104 52 71 107
Passing Downs S&P+ 73 75 51 115 54
Adj. Line Yards 78 89 70 116 115
Adj. Sack Rate 36 90 54 30 25
* F/+ data does not exist for offenses and defenses until the 2006 season.

With a record of just 22-49 over the last six seasons, it should not come as a surprise that SDSU really hasn't been consistently good at much lately.  They were decent running the ball in 2007 and solid throwing in both 2007 and 2009, but success hasn't been sustained.  Considering the "slow-build" model that Hoke seems to follow, we could potentially see the passing game become a solid strength this year, but the play-calling, personnel, and running game are still problematic, to say the least.

Quarterback

Image via Zimbio.com

2009 Unit Ranking: 77th (6th in the MWC)

Projected Depth Chart
Ryan Lindley (6'4, 215, Jr.; 239-for-437 passing, 3,054 yards, 23-16 TD-INT)
Jake Bernards (6'5, 210, RSFr.)
Ryne Clark (6'2, 200, RSFr.)

One of the higher-ranked recruits from the Chuck Long Experiment, Ryan Lindley, from nearby Lakeside, CA, is easily the face of the SDSU offense.  His completion percentages is not quite high enough for him to be a top-flight quarterback just yet, but in two years of starting, under two different head coaches, he has amassed 5,704 passing yards and 39 touchdowns to 25 interceptions.  Considering how often he has to throw (because his team is usually losing, and SDSU has no running game), he has done quite well for himself.  With Mizzou's occasional struggles in defending the pass, a big game from Lindley is clearly the Aztecs' best ticket for an upset.

Running Backs

Image via OCvarsity.com

2009 Unit Ranking: 117th (9th in the MWC)

Projected RB Depth Chart
Ronnie Hillman (5'10, 175, Fr.)
Walter Kazee (5'9, 175, So.; 371 yards, 4.3 per carry, 2 TD)
Davon Brown (5'9, 185, Sr.; 31 yards, 2.1 per carry)

Projected FB Depth Chart
Brandon Sullivan (5'11, 210, Sr.; 558 yards, 3.6 per carry, 4 TD, 117 rec. yards)
Anthony Miller (6'0, 220, So.; 81 yards, 2.3 per carry, 1 TD)
Chad Young (5'11, 250, RSFr.)

Only Washington State and Duke were worse at running the ball than San Diego State was last year.  Brandon Sullivan assumes a fullback role this year after leading the team in rushing, but while Walter Kazee was semi-competent in his freshman season, the Aztecs' hopes are all pinned on freshman Ronnie Hillman.  A do-it-all back from La Habra, CA, Hillman was ruled ineligible for the 2009 fall semester, but he enrolled in the spring and won the starting job.  He is small but explosive and could be dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield.  Despite HIllman's presence, however, this is still a rather poor unit.  Kazee and Brown are relatively quick, but not explosive, and ... well, units don't go from 117th to good in one year.

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

Image via Zimbio.com (Sampson = #1)

2009 Unit Ranking: 68th (5th in the MWC)

Projected WR Depth Chart
DeMarco Sampson (6'2, 205, Sr.; 851 yards, 13.7 per catch, 8 TD)
Vincent Brown (6'0, 195, Sr.; 778 yards, 17.3 per catch, 6 TD)
Dominique Sandifer (6'0, 190, So.; 298 yards, 11.5 per catch, 2 TD)
Osomond Nicholas (6'3, 210, RSFr.)
Preston King (5'10, 170, So.)
Doug Deakin (6'0, 180, Sr.)

Projected TE Depth Chart
Alston Umuolo (6'4, 250, Sr.; 243 yards, 11.0 per catch, 3 TD)
D.J. Shields (6'4, 250, So.; 109 yards, 9.9 per catch)
Gavin Escobar (6'6, 230, RSFr.)

Lindley's two favorite targets return for their senior seasons in San Diego.  DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown, two decent-sized, big-play receivers, are back and might provide as interesting a challenge to the Mizzou secondary as anybody Illinois puts out there.  This is a nice non-conference test for Mizzou -- you want them to face opponents good enough to make them work, but not good enough to dominate them, and SDSU's passing game fits that bill.  They were decent last year, and they will likely improve ... and Kevin Rutland, Carl Gettis, and company better be up for the challenge.

Offensive Line

Iosefa image via Pacific Athletic Alliance

2009 Unit Ranking: 33rd (3rd in the MWC)

Projected Depth Chart
C Trask Iosefa (6'0, 300, Sr.)
G Mike Matamua (6'4, 300, Jr.)
T Tommie Draheim (6'4, 295, Jr.)
G Nik Embernate (6'4, 295, So.)
T Kurtis Gunther (6'8, 295, Jr.)
G Emilio Rivera (6'4, 305, Jr.)
T Juan Bolanos (6'7, 340, Jr.)
T Joe Unga (6'6, 305, Jr.)
G Riley Gauld (6'5, 299, Jr.)
C Alec Johnson (6'3, 300, So.)

It's always fun to see lines that rank as polar opposites in different categories.  The SDSU offensive line could not open a running lane to save their lives, ranking 115th in Adj. Line Yards.  But they protected the passer as well as anybody in the Mountain West, and their Adj. Sack Rates were the main impetus in them ranking 33rd overall in 2009.  They have four returning starters, three of whom are upper-classmen, and they signed beefy tackle Juan Bolanos this past signing period.  Loaded with experience, this unit should also provide a solid challenge for the Mizzou defensive line.

Summary

As I said, this is the perfect early-season challenge for the Mizzou defense.  They will provide a bit of resistance for both the defensive line and secondary, but if Mizzou is truly thinking about challenging for the final Big 12 North title, they will be able to handle SDSU, at least by the second half.  Expect maybe a couple of scoring drives from the Aztecs in the first half, following by a bottling-up by the third quarter.

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